Cultivate: Hope’s Level Ground

I may not like gardening, but I delight in a beautifully landscaped yard. So, when we moved into our Oklahoma home, my husband and I actually took great pleasure in the hard work of filling flowerbeds, hoisting rocks into the just right positions, and throwing down that top layer of fresh mulch.

But there was this one corner of the backyard that stood stark and square with utility boxes. Each time I peered out the window, I dreamed of ways to hide all that plastic. So when I concocted a plan that included a faux fence backdrop, my husband was all in. The work began. We sawed and hammered, then banged that fence into the ground with deep stakes. So proud, we built another flowerbed in front of it and loaded the soil up with seeds for the summer.

What we didn’t consider during the project was the lay of the land. What appeared to be a flat corner of the lawn, turned out to be quite sloped. So with each rain, all the water flowed into that flowerbed, washing the soil and seeds away. Our only options were to level the yard (cough, cough–$$$) or plant something that wouldn’t get swept away. Guess what we chose. 🙂

The honeysuckle flourished in that cozy corner. The ducks came later, much to our pleasure! It really is hard to see the slope…but it’s there!

Our little adventure helps me understand why farmers must go to such lengths to level their land. Not only does it aid in dispersing water evenly among all the plants, but leveling helps with weed control and efficient seed dispersal. (this site) The cost and effort are worth it because level ground yields healthier plants and more fruit.

How nice would it be if life could always be level ground? But our reality is full of ups and downs, obstacles and hazards–where we fall in holes that trap us like pits, stumble over bumps that knock us off the path and bruise our egos, and get flooded by grief and despair and doubt.

In this life, we don’t walk on level ground and straight paths everyday. But, as believers, there is One constant no matter where we find ourselves in the field of life: Jesus. And, when we trust His Spirit enough to keep us steady on our feet, to provide what we need, and to guide us into a future we can’t see, we live with hope!

David’s Level Ground

Generations after the Israelites claimed the land promised to Abraham, God anointed David as king over His people. The young shepherd boy, chosen for His godly heart, accepted the call to lead God’s flock, but it would be fifteen years before he would ascend to the throne. 

Because Israel’s King Saul still sat upon it.

And when he discovered that David had been chosen by God to succeed him, he got mad. He went after David. Laid traps for David. Hunted David. For years.

Our group hiking through Ein Gedi, one area David is known to have found caves to hide form Saul.

I try to imagine myself waiting for so long to step into such a high calling while also having to live in caves in order to shield myself from my murderous enemy. I envision the doubt swirling in my mind. I feel the skin-prickling cold nights and the rumbling of my stomach. I can nearly experience the loneliness and the fear of a life on the run. And I wonder how David survived such a long time in hiding. And with such hope.

But I don’t have to wonder for long because David tells us. We have the gift of the poetry he wrote in those days of running and hiding and surviving. Poems, such as Psalm 57:

Psalm 57, ESV, footnotes mine
A Miktam of David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.

1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
    for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, 
    till the storms of destruction pass by.
2 I cry out to God Most High,
    to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
3 He will send from heaven and save me;
    he will put to shame him who tramples on me.
God will send out his steadfast1 love and his faithfulness!
4 My soul is in the midst of lions;
    I lie down amid fiery beasts—
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
    whose tongues are sharp swords.
5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
    Let your glory be over all the earth!
6 They set a net for my steps;
    my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my way,
    but they have fallen into it themselves.
7 My heart is steadfast,2 O God,
    my heart is steadfast! 2
I will sing and make melody!
8     Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!    
I will awake the dawn!
9 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
    I will sing praises to you among the nations.
10 For your steadfast1 love is great to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the clouds.
11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
    Let your glory be over all the earth!

The uniqueness of David’s poetry flows from its blend of raw emotion and faith. The first stanza is packed with hope-filled language–truths David knows about God and praises that build his trust in God. The second stanza pivots, lamenting his dire situation. David doesn’t hold back his true feelings.

But he swiftly sweeps in with more praises to put his focus back on the One with all the power. Suddenly, the verb tense shifts from the future ‘will’ to past tense, indicating God rescued David.

David finishes out the psalm repeating how his heart is steadfast–steady and firm* like level ground. He gushes his gratitude to God. 

David’s worship at the beginning of this poem is for a future hope. By the end, his praises are for God’s faithfulness and steadfast love. 

In another psalm, David employs similar strategies:

Psalm 143:7-10, ESV, footnote and emphasis mine
A Psalm of David.

7 Answer me quickly, O Lord!
    My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
    lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
8 Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast1 love,
    for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
    for to you I lift up my soul.
9 Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord!
    I have fled to you for refuge.
10 Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me
  on level ground!

David teaches us much about how to be honest about our emotions–and how to take them to the Lord. He demonstrates for us how to speak into our very real situations with hope–because he fully trusts God. And, I love that the final image he offers is that of level ground–which in the original Hebrew means free from obstacles. ‘Level ground’ is figurative for a place of safety, comfort, and prosperity*–everything our weary hearts long for.

Here’s a lesson of hope: despite being chased for years, David’s pleas never fell on silent ears. God kept David safe. Although God did not deliver David immediately, He was faithful to give David glimpses of his activity along the way–which encouraged David’s faith. Every single day, David chose to trust that even though his situation hadn’t changed, God would be faithful. 

Photo by Julia Caesar on Unsplash

Friends, this is hope based on trust. It is hope anchored in the faith that God WILL RESPOND. It is hope that looks for all the ways–little and big–that God reveals Himself at work. It is hope that trusts God’s ways are better and higher than our own ways (Isaiah 55). 

Hope and Trust

Trusting in God builds within us a faith that levels the field of our hearts. Rather than stumbling our way through lives full of holes and hills that drain our hope, godly trust comes in like new soil filling in the farmland, making it level. Firm. Steady. Becoming a place where hope can sprout. 

To hope without trust is to fall into one of the world’s pits where we ‘hope’ with no real expectation that anything will change. But, like David, our hope is firmly anchored in a God who is faithful. Paul describes it well:

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 15:13, NLT

God is our source of hope. And when we trust in Him to do what He does best, we can lay down all the stress, all the doubt, and be filled to overflowing with confident hope. Not in our own strength, but in the power of the Spirit. The same One who can lead us on level ground is the One who offers His power to us so we can trust and hope in God. 

Friends, the Holy Spirit will lead us on level ground. Like David, we must choose to believe in God’s faithfulness and look to the Spirit for His guiding strength. And as we trust Him, our hopes for a better future make us healthier and better able to produce great fruit for God’s kingdom here on earth.

Father God, You are our source of hope. We put our full trust in your faithfulness because we can look back in the lives of people like Abraham, Moses, and David to see how You kept every single promise. We can look back over the course of our own lives and see all the way, big and small, that You have come through for us. May these rememberings build our faith and trust in You–so that we can put our whole hope in You. Lord Jesus, we look to You every morning because we want to encounter your steadfast love. We ask for your guidance so that we can remain on level ground with You. We seek refuge in You from all the hurt and harm and horrors–because, in You, hope resides. Holy Spirit, thank You for dwelling in us, for leading us on level ground even when life is full of pits and puddles, and for strengthening us with a power that overcomes all doubt and dread. We affirm that we may not know what a day may bring, but we know Who brings the day.** And that builds our faith and trust in You. It anchors our hope in You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(Inspired by Romans 15:13; Hebrews 10:23; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Psalm 143:8-10; “Miracle Power” by We the Kingdom**)

  • Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.
    • *Strong’s Concordance catalogs and defines all Hebrew and Greek words found in Scripture. And websites like make it really easy to discover that the Hebrew word (from Psalm 143), mishor, means ‘level ground’ and so much more.
      • Strong’s also elaborates on the two Hebrew words for steadfast, helping us see how one, checed1 (also written as hessed), can refer to God’s loving kindness and fidelity while the other, kun,2 describes a human’s ability to remain firm. The picture of what our poet, David, creates using such language is one of God’s steadfastness helping our own find its firm footing.
    • **Another song on the We the Kingdom album. This one is called “Miracle Power” and its lyrics, much like David’s poems, build faith!! I’ve been playing it A LOT lately. There is MUCH to pull our eyes off the seeds. When the weeds beg for my attention, I turn this song on and let the rhythms and the words soak into my soul. And by the end, I can say, “I may not know what a day brings, BUT I KNOW WHO BRINGS THE DAY!” with quite the fervent cry. My faith made firm. My heart made steadfast in Christ. Yes, please!
    • JD Walt, Seedbed’s Chief Sower and former farmer has much to say about this life of cultivating faith and hope. Here’s a goodie that fits so well with our themes today: “We can let go of the need to control and master our own lives. We can release the assignment to be the farm manager of our lives. We have two jobs on this farm: 1. Trust in the Lord. 2. Take delight in the Lord. Then Jesus does two things. 1. He befriends us with his faithfulness. 2. He cultivates and fulfills the desires of our hearts in an alignment of union with his own.” (Wake Up Call, 10/20/22)
    • And, of course our “Revival of Hope” playlist.
  • Rhythms
    • Let’s continue our rhythm of speaking the words, “Jesus, I belong to You.” Over and over. Throughout our days and nights. JD Walt would say that as we speak of such belonging, we’ll behold Him more fully. And…we’ll become more like Him. Lord, let it be so!
    • And, lean into the resources available to you–songs, God’s Word, friends who listen.
  • And, as community, let us not neglect sharing God’s hope with others. Share your God-stories with people around you. Share this site. Share God’s Word. Shine His light into the world! 

Featured Photo by Arnaldo Aldana on Unsplash

Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

2 thoughts on “Cultivate: Hope’s Level Ground

  1. Thank you 🙏🏻
    My yard represents my life right now. It is exactly as you described.
    “Rather than stumbling our way through lives full of holes and hills that drain our hope, godly trust comes in like new soil filling in the farmland, making it level. Firm. Steady. Becoming a place where hope can sprout.”
    I am at a low level with poor drainage 😔 I need to bring in new soil😅

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